Just how do you take care of your pier and beam or crawlspace home foundation? Do you have to do anything at all? You’re like: “I’m looking for maintenance tips here, people . . .”
Anchor Foundation Repair has inspected and repaired thousands of crawl space homes in the Brazos Valley area over the past 35+ years. We know *a thing or two* about what to do to take care of your pier and beam home and can offer some good maintenance practices.
This article will fill you in on the top ways to care for and maintain your crawl space or pier and beam home, both in general as well as after you have had a major house leveling repair on your foundation.
How Do I Take Care of My Pier and Beam Foundation?
The main thing you need to know about pier and beam foundations is that you do indeed have to take care of them. Whether you have just purchased a home with a crawl space, have just gotten foundation repairs, or are thinking about getting your house leveled soon, there are maintenance best practices to perform regularly and keep in mind.
Maintaining your pier and beam or crawl space types of foundations is not a one-time event that you can handle initially, and then forget about for the rest of your time in the house.
We have broken down the “care and feeding” of your crawl space foundation home into three main categories of awareness and activity:
- Watch out for conditions that lead to settlement,
- Be proactive to changes, and
- Get regular maintenance.
We will go into detail and explain these maintenance tips in the next sections. So let’s *dig in* and get started.
1. Watch Out for Conditions that Lead to Crawl Space Settlement
The first rule of crawl space foundation maintenance is to keep an eye out for potential issues. You need to know what conditions cause settlement and foundation problems for pier and beam homes in the first place.
The following conditions are not entirely separate situations. They often act in combination with one another and work together to create signs of settlement in your pier and beam home.
Expansive Clay Soil Behavior
Expansive clay soil expands when wet and contracts when dry. Be aware of abnormally or excessively rainy or drought conditions. The climate extremes are what really act strongly upon your home and foundation.
We’re not talking about every little rain sprinkle or dry time (I mean, we live in Texas, so that is like every other day). We’re talking about notable *errybody’s talkin’ about it* kind of weather.
The soil can heave and push up on your home when it’s rainy. The soil can make your house sink during extended dry times. There might be additional or preventative action to take if our area begins to experience excessively wet or dry climate conditions that influence the soil more than usual.
So let’s say it’s raining a lot and you notice that water is standing around your home and taking longer to drain away. The longer water sits in your yard or under your house the more likely those expansive clay soils are going to react to it. The more time the soil has to expand, the more it will expand.
So if you are noticing poor drainage issues, you might have some work to do to address it for the sake of your foundation.
Crawl Space Moisture Levels
Moisture levels are closely related to drainage conditions, but there is a bit of a difference. Sure, moisture can come from poor drainage, but it can also come from other situations so it’s worth making the distinction.
Besides the poor drainage scenario, crawl spaces can also experience excessive moisture levels from:
- General low crawl space clearance
- Poor or inadequate ventilation
- A leaking pipe under the home
I don’t know if you have noticed this or not but it’s *kinda humid* around here, to put it mildly. The air is wet for heaven’s sake.
Let’s say your home has a low clearance between the ground and the base of the home or you have insufficient crawl space ventilation. Then just the dang air (or the air and damp ground together) can create too much moisture under the home and cause wood rot conditions.
A leaking pipe or plumbing fixture dripping water under the home and hanging out in the crawlspace adds to that moisture-level problem. Slow-dripping water or occasionally draining water isn’t enough to cause the drainage systems to begin working and the water can just end up sitting there even if you have fairly good drainage around the perimeter of your home.
Any hot, humid, or long-lasting moisture under the home leads to wood damage and rot. Then your home is not supported in all the right places causing settlement-like symptoms in your home. Floors become shaky, start rattling, or begin to feel soft. Walls can begin to crack at corners, or doors can start sticking.
The last two conditions were created by wet conditions acting upon the soil or structure of your home. Gravity works together with the weight of your home and also during those drought conditions I talked about earlier.
In other words, your home can just sink on its own because it’s heavy and pushes down on the earth. But it can also sink because the soil has contracted due to dry weather.
The drier things get, the more your home can sink. Gravity just helps it all along to cause damage and signs of settlement for your pier and beam home. Thanks a lot, gravity . . . *sigh*
2. Be Proactive to Changes in Your Pier and Beam Home
Do you remember the first rule of crawl space maintenance? Here’s a refresher: The first rule of crawl space foundation maintenance is to keep an eye out for potential issues.
The second rule of crawl space foundation maintenance is to do something about those issues when you notice early signs of more settlement developing. You need to proactively take action to:
- Fix that poor drainage,
- Improve ventilation,
- Repair that leaky pipe,
- Water your yard when there is drought, or
- Call someone when you feel or see signs of movement or settlement.
Ok, you can’t really do anything about gravity. But in the other conditions that can cause settlement, you can take *some kind* of action. Don’t just sit around doin’ nothin’ because things only get worse the longer you twiddle your thumbs with delays or indecisiveness.
Now, we’re not saying take drastic and immediate measures every time it rains or anything like that. We’re saying if you observe an issue, wait a bit to see if things work themselves out – it could be seasonal settlement. If it’s not the kind of thing that can bounce back or resolve itself, then it’s probably time to do something rather than nothing.
A Note on Watering
Some people think that “watering your foundation” is the thing to do when there is a drought. But for a crawl space foundation, moisture is your enemy at all times and you don’t want to add excess water down there ever.
You want to keep water away from your crawl space foundation as much as possible, hence our advice on promoting good drainage, ventilation, and eliminating moisture.
Water your yard to keep your grass, shrubs, and trees alive during a drought. But do not overwater or purposefully hose a bunch of water directly under your house. Your goal during a drought is to try and maintain a simulated rainfall condition within regular levels, not go from one extreme to another.
3. Get Regular Maintenance for Crawl Space Foundations
The third rule of crawl space foundation maintenance is . . . well . . . actual maintenance. Having a foundation repair company come out regularly to adjust and re-secure your pier and beam home is highly recommended.
You could do the maintenance yourself if you wanted as well if you’ve got the know-how, but most people don’t wanna deal with it.
Think of crawl space maintenance like changing the oil in your car every so often. If you don’t do it, then your engine fails and you’ve got a big, expensive problem on your hands. It’s the same for a pier and beam or crawl space foundation, do the maintenance or you might end up with bigger, more extensive, and expensive issues.
A homeowner should get their pier and beam home re-shimmed and checked over for developing settlement problems by a house leveling contractor or foundation repair company periodically. Get a foundation “service visit” every 3 to 5 years as a best practice for good crawl space home maintenance.
I feel like this is really important so I’m gonna say it again in bigger, bolder letters:
*End Public Service Announcement*
A maintenance-style visit is recommended every 3 to 5 years after you have had foundation repair (aka house leveling) on your pier and beam home. But maintenance should also be done even if you haven’t experienced foundation settlement issues. Maybe think of it more like a “check-up” for your foundation.
How Long Does Pier and Beam Maintenance Take? Cost?
For crawl space homes that have already been repaired or leveled, it usually takes one-half to one full day for a foundation repair company to perform a maintenance visit.
The crew would inspect the condition of the foundation for any issues, reshim and level-up areas that have become loosened, and resecure the piers as they come into contact with the underside of the home structure.
The average cost for this kind of work is around $1,600 to $1,800 every 3 to 5 years. Think of this cost as an “insurance policy” to protect the investment that you have already in your home made with the initial house leveling project.
Homes that don’t have any major presenting signs of foundation settlement (or had any in the past) should still be checked out every so often as a preventative measure.
The cost of maintenance without prior repairs is harder to predict because a foundation repair company will not necessarily know the condition in the first place if they are walking into a home they have never looked at before and there could be issues you are not even aware of that are happening.
Expect the cost for a first-time maintenance visit to be higher than a typical maintenance visit, it could be more in the range of regular house leveling pricing. But the hope is that it would be less since no signs of settlement are currently presenting themselves.
Ready for Maintenance or an Initial House Leveling Service?
If you have already had a pier and beam foundation repair service and are ready for maintenance, get in touch with the foundation repair or house leveling company that did the initial service for a follow-up.
Or maybe you just wanted to know about maintenance needs and now you are ready to move forward with an initial house leveling project.
Hey, guess what? Anchor Foundation Repair does house leveling, pier and beam foundation repair, and maintenance on crawl space homes we have already repaired. We have been helping homeowners with their foundation needs in Bryan, College Station, and surrounding Brazos Valley communities like Navasota, and Brenham since 1985.
We’re ready to help get your house leveled and maintained as soon as you are ready to have us around. Get started with a quote from Anchor Foundation Repair today.